January 28, 2013
Tuesday, 1:00 p.m.
Letter #261: O Come Let Us Adore Him
Merry Christmas! No, I don’t need a new calendar. I just celebrated the Christmas holiday for—hopefully—the last time this season. Due to many delays and a packed December schedule in the prison chapel, my little Community Choir finally presented our Christmas (in January!) Concert, thanks to our incredible volunteer, Sister Peggy. She’s made friends and won admiration from all the upper management here, and she was able to get us a morning timeslot in the chapel on Friday morning.
The head principal of the school here is a sweet Christian lady, Ms. Carr. She is a huge supporter of the Community Choir since it brings music education to anyone who wants to join. Because the choir isn’t affiliated with any church denomination or religious group (though it is sponsored by Sister Peggy, and I lead it), Ms. Carr invited the entire school—around 150 students.
The morning of the concert, we found out that the teachers didn’t want to miss the concert, having heard us sing at several graduations before. So, each one brought their entire class with them, filling the chapel to capacity. We ended up having to do two concerts, since the students and staff filled the chapel twice over! One guy in the horticulture class told me his teacher told her students to “please do me a favor and go to the concert.” Only one guy chose to go to the library instead.
Sister Peggy brought big red bows and potted poinsettias to make the chapel look festive, and I dressed in the finest of my Christmas outfits, a beautiful light tan top and bottom set. Inmates aren’t the ideal audience if you’re looking for artistic appreciation or applause, but are the perfect ones to bring a gift of Christmas cheer to, no matter how many weeks late. But I wasn’t sure of this.
Practices with the choir are brutal. We have just two hours each time we practice, and we often don’t have full attendance, due solely to prison factors beyond our control. This greatly affects our ability to get much accomplished, since I currently have just six participants besides Peggy and me. Thus, I work the guys hard when we do get to practice.
However, performances are quite different. I let loose and trust the guys to take the moment seriously, to focus on honoring God with their voices and blessing others with the gift of musicianship. They have a blast, and it is exciting to see them mature not only vocally but in character too. Those who came as shy, unsure singers become confident in their abilities, and the hotshots learn that the world doesn’t revolve around their “need” to do a solo—and they become team players. (Which is simply a metaphor. We don’t actually engage other teams or keep score.)
The concerts went incredibly well, praise God! No major slip-ups or mistakes, and our captive audiences seemed to appreciate what we brought … if nothing else, it was an excuse to leave school for 40 minutes.
We sang “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “The First Noël,” “O Holy Night,” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” We also sang our really fun arrangement of “Jingle Bells,” and we had a few duets and trios with the songs “Mary, Did You Know?,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Feliz Navidad,” and Sister Peggy sang the beautiful song from The Grinch That Stole Christmas, “Where Are You, Christmas?” to complete our set. I gave an open invitation to join the choir, and several guys said they will.
Though I’m limited in what I felt was possible to say about God at an event that wasn’t a church service—especially with forced attendance—I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring a message in song, and I’m praying this leads to much more. The doors open slowly, but wide as I’m patient and let God direct. He is worthy to be adored, any season.